The Cold War

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Hungary – Events

On 23 October, there were riots of students, workers and soldiers. They smashed up the statue of Stalin, and attacked the AVH and Russian soldiers.
On 24 October, Imre Nagy took over as Prime Minister. He asked Khrushchev to take out the Russian troops.
On 28 October, Khrushchev agreed, and the Russian army pulled out of Budapest.
29 October – 3 November: The new Hungarian government introduced democracy, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion (the leader of the Catholic Church was freed from prison). He also announced that Hungary was going to leave the Warsaw Pact.
4 November: At dawn, 1000 Russian tanks rolled into Budapest. By 8.10 am they had destroyed the Hungarian army and captured Hungarian Radio – its last words broadcast were ‘Help! Help! Help”!’ Hungarian people – even children – fought them with machine guns. 27,000 people were killed.

Khrushchev put in Janos Kadar, a supporter of Russia, as Prime Minister.

Source C

We are quiet, not afraid. Send the news to the world and say it should condemn the Russians. The fighting is very close now and we haven’t enough guns. What is the United Nations doing? Give us a little help. We will hold out to our last drop of blood. The tanks are firing now. . .
The last message – a telex from a newspaper journalist – from Hungary.

Hungary – Results

1. 200,000 Hungarian refugees fled into Austria.

2. Russia stayed in control behind the Iron Curtain – no other country tried to get rid of Russia troops until Czechoslovakia in 1968.

3. People in the West were horrified – many British Communists left the Communist Party.

4. The West realised it could do nothing about the Iron Curtain countries – but this made Western leaders more determined to ‘contain’ communism.

New Words

patriotic: loving your country.

censorship: where the government controls what the newspapers/ radio etc. say.

telex: an early form of fax, connecting typewriters down a telephone line.


Make notes on the ‘The Polish riots of 1956’.


Prepare a 15-minute essay: ‘Why was there a revolution in Hungary in 1956’.

Source A

There were FIVE reasons why Khrushchev acted harshly in Hungary:

  • Nagy’s decision to leave the Warsaw Pact was the last straw – Russia was determined to keep its ‘buffer’ of states.

  • China asked Russia to act to stop Communism being damaged.

  • Nagy had obviously lost control; Hungary was not destalinising – it was turning capitalist.

  • Hard-liners in Russia forced Khrushchev to act.

  • Khrushchev though, correctly, that the West would not help Hungary.

Source B

TWO reasons why the West did not help Hungary:

  • Britain and France were involved in the Suez crisis in Egypt.

  • Eisenhower did not think Hungary worth a world war.

  • When the UN suggested an investigation, Russia used its veto to stop it.

Did you know?
What made the Hungarian revolution so heart-rending was the desperate bravery of the rebels. One journalist found a little girl of 12, dead, armed with a machine gun.


1. Copy out sources A and B and the section: Hungary – Results.

2. Prepare a 15-minute essay: ‘The events of the Hungarian Revolution’.

After 1957, tension grew between Russia and America:

1. Russia’s Sputnik satellite (1957) and space orbit (1961) gave them a psychological advantage. Many Americans believed America was in danger.

2. In 1959, the Communist Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, right next to America. In 1960, he made a trade agreement with Russia.

3. China was very aggressive. When Khrushchev made a visit to America in 1959, they accused him of going soft; this made Khrushchev demand that America withdraw from West Berlin

A summit was planned for May 1960 to discuss Berlin and nuclear weapons.

The U2 crisis

On 5 May 1960 – just 9 days before the summit – Russia shot down an American U2 spy-plane.

At first, the Americans tried to claim that it was a weather-plane that had gone off-course. However, the Russians put the pilot Gary Powers on trial for spying, and the Americans admitted it was a spy-plane.

The summit met at Paris on 14 May 1960.

Khrushchev refused to take part in the talks unless the Americans apologise and cancel all future spy-flights. President Eisenhower agreed to cancel the spy-flights, but would not apologise – so Khrushchev went home.

The results were:

1. Paris summit ruined; Cold War continues.

2. Eisenhower’s planned visit to Russia cancelled.

3. Khrushcev and the Russians grew in confidence.

4. Americans became angry with Eisenhower, who they said was losing the Cold War. After the U2 incident, America became more aggressive. They elected John F Kennedy, who promised to be much tougher on communism.

Source A

Let every nation know that we shall pay any price, bear and burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, for the survival and success of freedom. Now the trumpet calls again . . . against the enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war. Ask not what your country can do for you: ask what you can do for your country.
Inaugural speech of President Kennedy, 1961.

The Berlin Wall – Causes

1. Growing tension

Kennedy tried to get tough on Communism.

He financed the forces fighting the Communists in Vietnam and Laos, and in 1961 he helped an invasion of Cuba (see page 8).

2. Refugees

East Germany was poor and under strict rule.

West Berlin was wealthy and free. Many East Germans worked in West Berlin, and saw this.

By 1961, 3 million had fled to the west through Berlin. As the Cold War tension grew, more left, fearing that the border would be closed – by August 1961, the flow was 1,800 a day.

  1. This was an embarrassment to Russia, which claimed that Communism was better.

  2. Also, many who left were skilled workers.

3. Sabotage

The Russians claimed that the Americans used West Berlin for spying and sabotage (see Source B).

The Berlin Wall

At the Vienna summit of June 1961, Khrushchev again demanded that the Americans leave West Berlin. Kennedy’s refused – and on 25 July increased America’s spending on weapons.

On 13 August, Khrushchev closed the border between east and west Berlin – and built a wall.

Did you know?
When Khrushchev visited America in 1959, he was taken round an Ideal Home exhibition. At the kitchen display, he had a very public row with American Vice-President Nixon about which was better: Communism or capitalism.


1. Discuss with a friend why the U2 incident came at a very bad time for the Americans.

2. Make notes on: ‘The story of the U2 crisis’.

New Words

psychological: in the mind.

Nuclear weapons: atomic and hydrogen bombs and ICBMs – inter-continental ballistic missiles.

Sabotage: causing damage

Source B

The Americans use West Berlin as a base for recruiting spies, sabotage and starting riots. The wall will keep East Germany safe.
The Russian explanation of the Wall, 1961

Source C

There were FOUR results of the Berlin Wall:

  • Berlin was split in two. Hundreds of East Berliners died trying to cross it.

  • America complained, but did not try to take it down – it was not worth a war.

  • Tension grew: both sides started nuclear testing.

  • The West became more anti-communist (Source D)

Source D

Some people say we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin.

President Kennedy, 1961.

 The Berlin Wall, 1961


1. Prepare a 15-minute essay: ‘Describe the events 1958–1961 which led to the Berlin Wall’.

2. Copy Source C.

The Cuban Missiles Crisis – Causes

1. Superpower Tension

All the tensions that had grown up between Russia’s assertive ‘peaceful competition’ and Kennedy’s promise to be tough on Russia – including the space race, the arms race and nuclear testing, American funding of anti-Communists in Vietnam and Laos, the failed Vienna summit (1961) and the Berlin Wall.

2. Fidel Castro’s Cuba

In 1959, the Communist Fidel Castro took power in Cuba. This was very threatening to the USA because it was right next to America. In 1960, Castro made a trade agreement with Russia, whereby Cuba sent sugar to Russia, in return for oil, machines and money. This frightened the Americans more, and in 1960 they stopped trading with Cuba. In retaliation, Cuba nationalised all American-owned companies

3. The Bay of Pigs.

In April 1961 the CIA encouraged, funded and transported an attempt by anti-Castro Cuban exiles to invade Cuba. It failed miserably, greatly embarrassing Kennedy. In September 1961, therefore, Castro asked for – and Russia publicly promised – weapons to defend Cuba against America.
On 14 October an American U2 spy-plane took pictures of a nuclear missile base being built on Cuba. Kennedy’s advisers told him he had 10 days before Cuba could fire the missiles at targets in America.
Kennedy decided he had to act (see Source A).

The Cuban Missiles Crisis

16 Oct: Kennedy set up a Committee of the National Security Council to advise him.

22 Oct: Kennedy announced that he was mounting a naval blockade of Cuba.

23 Oct: Khrushchev accused America of piracy. He warned that Russia would get ready ‘a fitting reply to the aggressor’. 20 Russian ships were heading for Cuba.

24 Oct: The first Russian ship reached the naval blockade. It was an oil ship and was allowed through. The other Russian ships (carrying missiles) turned back. However, Russia was still building the missile bases.

26 Oct: Khrushchev sent a letter to Kennedy, offering to dismantle the sites if Kennedy would lift the blockade and agree not to invade Cuba.

27 Oct: Before Kennedy could reply, Khrushchev sent another letter, demanding that Kennedy also dismantle American missile bases in Turkey. On the same day, a U2 plane was shot down over Cuba.

It looked as if war was about to happen.

Kennedy ignored the plane incident. He also ignored Khrushchev’s second letter – he wrote simply that would lift the blockade and agree not to invade Cuba if Khrushchev would dismantle the missile bases.

28 Oct: Khrushchev agreed. The crisis finished.

20 Nov: Russian bombers left Cuba, and Kennedy lifted the naval blockade.

The results were:

1. Khrushchev lost prestige – he had failed. Particularly, China broke from Russia.

2. Kennedy gained prestige. He was seen as the men who faced down the Russians.

3. Both sides had had a fright. They were more careful in future. The two leaders set up a telephone ‘hotline’ to talk directly in a crisis.

In 1963, they agreed a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Cuba was the start of the end of the Cold War.

4. Cuba remained a Communist dictatorship, but America left it alone.

New Words

nationalise: where the government takes over a business/ industry.

naval blockade: to not allow ships to come or go from Cuba.

Source A

We will not needlessly risk world-wide nuclear war in which even victory would be ashes in our mouths – but neither will we shrink from that risk when it must be faced . . . I call upon Chairman Khrushchev to stop and dismantle this secret, reckless and provocative threat to world peace.
Speech by President Kennedy on American TV, 1962.
 The danger of the missile bases.


Prepare a 15-minute essay: ‘Why was there a crisis about Cuba in 1962?

Source B

Kennedy’s Options:

  1. Nuclear Strike? It would cause a nuclear war.

  2. Conventional attack? There were Russian troops in Cuba, and it would probably lead to a war with Russia.

  3. Use the UN? Too slow.

  4. Do nothing? The missile bases were too dangerous.

  5. Blockade? This would stop the missiles getting to the missile bases, but it was not a direct act of war.

Did you know?
Kennedy did not publicly agree to dismantle missile bases in Turkey. But in a secret telephone call, he told Khrushchev that – while he couldn’t agree to dismantle Turkish bases in a ‘tit-for-tat’ agreement – the USA did not see any need for them and that they would be dismantled soon.


1. Prepare a 15-minute essay: ‘Describe the events of the Cuba Crisis of 1962.

2. Copy ‘The Results of the Cuba Crisis’.

Revision Questions

  1. When did Stalin die? Who became the new leader of Russia

  2. What were the meetings between the superpower leaders called?

  3. What did Khrushchev tell Tito in 1955?

  4. What did Khrushchev say about Stalin in 1956?

  5. What was Khrushchev’s policy called? What did he really mean by it?

  6. What was de-stalinisation? Why was it dangerous for world peace?

  7. How did Khrushchev build up support in countries like Afghanistan and Burma?

  8. What was the first satellite and when was it launched?

  9. Who was the first astronaut to orbit the earth, and when did he do it?

  10. When did Russia get the hydrogen bomb?

  11. What was the military alliance set up by Khrushchev, and what countries were in it?

  12. Which American senator led a ‘witch-hunt’ for communists in America?

  13. What did NATO agree to in 1955 in West Germany?

  14. How did America spy on Russia?

  15. Name the FIVE crises after 1955.

  16. Who led the Polish riots of 1956?

  17. Which Polish Communist kept control of Poland?

  18. List the FIVE reasons for the Hungarian uprising.

  19. Who rioted in Hungary on 23 October 1956, and what did they do?

  20. Who became the Prime Minister of Hungary?

  21. What FOUR reforms did the rebels order?

  22. What FIVE reasons led Russia to send in the tanks? Of these, which was most important?

  23. How many tanks invaded Budapest.

  24. Why did Britain and France not help Hungary?

  25. Who was the President of America in 1956? Why did he not help Hungary?

  26. Why did the UN not help Hungary?

  27. Who did Khrushchev put in charge of Hungary?

  28. How many Hungarians fled to Austria?

  29. What did Khrushchev demand from America in 1959?

  30. With whom did Khrushchev argue about kitchens in 1959?

  31. What crisis began on 5 May 1960.

  32. Which summit meeting was ruined because of the crisis?

  33. Who did the Americans elect as their President in 1961?

  34. Which two places in the Far East did Kennedy finance anti-communist fighters?

  35. How many refugees had fled to West Berlin by 1961? Why was this bad for Russia?

  36. What did Khrushchev demand at the Vienna summit of June 1961?

  37. What date did Khrushchev begin to build the Berlin Wall?

  38. Why did Khrushchev say he built the wall?

  39. When did Fidel Castro come to power in Cuba?

  40. What did his 1960 trade agreement with Russia say?

  41. What did Castro do to America companies in 1961 which angered America?

  42. What was the name for the failed invasion of Cuba in 1961. Why was it an embarrassment for Kennedy?

  43. What did a U2 spy-plane discover on Cuba in October 1962?

  44. What were Kennedy’s FIVE options, and which did he choose?

  45. What did Khrushchev accuse America of?

  46. What deal was done between Kennedy and Khrushchev?

  47. What event during the crisis (27 Oct) almost caused a nuclear war?

  48. What did the two leaders set up after the Missiles Crisis to prevent another such crisis?

  49. What agreement began the thaw in 1963?

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